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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Opioid Epidemic Week - Raising Awareness

September is an important month for people in both addiction medicine and recovery. There is a plethora of events taking place with regard to addiction and mental health as a whole, including National Recovery Month and Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. As we mentioned at the end of August, National Recovery Month is about increasing awareness and celebrating successes of those in recovery.

Suicide Prevention Awareness Month is equally important because most of the suicides that occur every year are related to mental illness. On top of that, a significant number of people living with a mental health disorder, such as depression, use drugs and alcohol to cope with their symptoms. A coping mechanism that can lead to addiction. While mind altering substances can provide temporary relief, in the long run they actually exacerbate one’s mental illness. Without assistance in the form of treatment and continued therapy, people will often resort to choices that they cannot undue, i.e. suicide.

Encouraging people to seek help for any form of mental illness is of the utmost importance, and breaking the stigma that often accompanies mental health is just one facet. The other is making sure that assistance is widely available, especially in rural America—regions often hit the hardest by the American opioid epidemic. Treatment is the best weapon against mental health disorders, a tool that has proven to save lives—time and time again.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released their 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The findings were troubling to say the least. It turns out that one-third of American adults were prescribed opioid painkillers last year, despite the government's efforts to encourage a change in prescribing practices among primary care physicians.

On Monday, the White House administration announced the launch of Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week. The President is calling on Congress for $1.1 billion to fund a several initiatives vital to fighting the opioid epidemic.

“During Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week, we pause to remember all those we have lost to opioid use disorder, we stand with the courageous individuals in recovery, and we recognize the importance of raising awareness of this epidemic.” --Proclamation by President Obama, September 16, 2016

Federal agencies announced several plans, such as:
  • Expanding substance use disorder treatment in the TRICARE system to include coverage of intensive outpatient programs and treatment of opioid use disorders with medication-assisted treatment.

  • Establishing enhanced measures in conjunction with the Chinese government to combat the supply of fentanyl and its analogues coming to the United States.

  • Supporting distance learning and telemedicine programs that expand access to healthcare, substance use disorder treatment, and educational opportunities in rural communities.

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